“George, honey, can you please tell me what this word is pronounced as?” Linda leans over at her husband, who is currently busy on his phone and shows him the word in one of the pages of her book.
“That’s suffering Linda. That’s an easy word.”
“I know. I was just testing your vocabulary!” And she laughs and dismisses her own confusion.
The next morning, Linda wakes up a little too early, and goes down to the kitchen to make breakfast for her family, and in an hour, everything is ready. There are eggs and bread for her daughter, only if she could remember her name, ham and cheese sandwich for George, black coffee for Robin, her son, and salad for herself.
“Good morning mom.” Eva steps into the kitchen.
“Good morning Julie.” Replies Linda.
“Mom, I’m Eva.”
“What did I say?”
“You said Julie.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Good morning ladies.” George walks in too.
“Oh I knew Robin would be the last one to come. He always wakes up late. Eva, go and call your brother.”
“Your brother, Robin. Tell him his coffee is ready. Mommy made it today!”
“Mom, Robin’s dead. He committed suicide two years ago.”
“Oh that’s sad! Let’s start with breakfast.”
There is complete silence in the room, only the munching of ham and lettuce is audible and the clattering of the china and spoons and forks. Linda feels embarrassed, George and Eva-sympathy! They plan on visiting the doctor in the afternoon, to which Linda opposes initially, but eventually agrees. She knows there is something wrong with her.
“Mild Alzheimer’s is common among ladies of fifty after a stage of depression, but Linda’s case is a bit complicated Mr Frank. She has lost her son to suicide, which wasn’t easy for her to come over and truly speaking, she hasn’t recovered from that yet, and until and unless that happens, her condition of Alzheimer’s will keep on becoming worse. Now it is only in the early stages, but if proper care is not taken, she will keep on forgetting everything. I had told your daughter that Linda requires an outing, and I still hold the same opinion. That will help her, or so I suppose. I am writing down some medicines, please take care.” The doctor scares George even more than he ever was.
Back in the car, Linda asks him about her reports, to which George doesn’t prefer to reply. They go home, spend the day normally, and go back to sleep.
As they lay on their bed, George whispers, “Linda, no matter what happens, I will always be with you. Eva will always be with you. We are family, the highest institution that can be, and I will, forever be indebted to the two of you for being such an important part of my life; for being my family!
Linda won’t get sleep, but she pretends to be asleep.
Later that night, George gets up and goes to the balcony. He makes a call.
“I cannot do that now. I cannot leave her in this condition…I know that I love you and not her anymore, but I can’t just leave her, at least for Eva’s sake. I don’t love Linda anymore, but I do love my daughter. And I promise Maria, I will die a peaceful death in your arms, not in Linda’s…”
Linda experiences her adrenaline rush through her back. Her face red with fury. He eyes blue, without any emotions. She has heard everything from behind the curtain dividing the bedroom and balcony. She creeps quietly into her closet, puts on her new silk gloves and lies back on the bed, in the same position as before. George comes into the room after a while, and goes back to sleep.
Her eyes, emotionless, open and she gets up and stands next to a sleeping George. Her hands on his neck, pressing it, and soon he goes out of breath. He didn’t shout. She doesn’t care.
The gloves in her closet. A smile on her face. Sleep in her eyes!
The next morning, Linda wakes up according to her normal routine. She has had a good night sleep in a long time. She turns to kiss her husband a good morning, but he hasn’t woken up yet. She goes down to make breakfast, but when she reaches the kitchen, she learns that Eva has already made it.
“Oh Maria my child!” she holds Eva by her head and kisses her on her forehead.
“Where is dad?”
“Strange, isn’t it? He is still asleep.”
“That is weird. He doesn’t usually sleeps this long.”
“Maybe he is tired from yesterday.”
“He didn’t do anything tiring yesterday. I’ll wake him up. You take out the plates till then.”
Eva rushes upstairs, into her parents’ room and opens the window curtains.
“Dad! Dad! Wake up now. Don’t be a bad boy.” She leans over to kiss him, and notices something odd. She realises that he is not breathing. She shouts for her mother. Linda comes rushing, in panic.
“George! George! Wake up honey. See what Eva has made you. There is Tuna. I’ll put some mayonnaise over it if you like.”
Eva calls for the ambulance and they take him to the hospital.
“The reason of his death is being investigated into. We will let you know shortly.” The doctor tells them.
The Frank ladies take a cab home after organising for a funeral service a week later. As soon as they get home, they get a call from the hospital, stating that something or someone had blocked Mr Frank’s throat, while he received a mild heart attack.
“Thank you for your concern doctor, but I don’t want the police involved.” And Eva hangs up.
There are many people at the funeral. The men and women with black umbrellas upheld against the raining sky, everyone here to offer condolence to the family. But there is one lady, who is here to offer condolence to herself, Maria!
“I am sorry for the loss.” Maria hugs Linda and Eva. “He was a very great man.”
“Sorry, but I don’t recognise you.” Says Linda.
“How will you? We have never met. I am Maria. George and I were together in college, and our friendship will remain till time immemorial.”
Linda has the same emotionless eyes again. The bad side of her overpowers the good side and she looks at her hands. She has her black silk gloves on. She moves her hands towards Maria, but then someone else comes and starts talking to her and hugging her for her loss. The good comes back to her.
Eva soon resumes her normal life. She takes over at her father’s supermarket business, and Linda stays at home. On one such day, Linda takes out her best dress, a matching blue hat, a scarf and black heels, and leaves to see someone with whom she had planned to meet over tea.
She reaches the place a little later than planned, but that is okay, she thinks. She walks through the main gate and the small, yet perfect, lawn. It is better than hers. She rings the bell, and an old woman opens the door. The woman looks beautiful today. She looked dull the last time they had met.
“Maria!” And they hug.
“Come on in. The cake is just about to bake and the tea is boiling. I will just cut some fruits. Please make yourself comfortable. Actually the maid didn’t turn up today, so I had to do all the work.”
“And your children?”
“I have no one. The man I loved got married to someone else, and before we could get together again, it was too late.”
“Let me cut the fruits.”
Linda follows Maria into the kitchen. Maria gets the fruits and a knife and puts them on the platform.”
“I insist. Please let me cut the fruits.”
Maria is confused!
“Sure.” She repeats.
“Thank you.” And she begins with her cutting.
Midway through, Maria stops Linda from cutting the fruits. The slices of apples and pears are all different in shape and size. Linda has cut the grapes too.
“What are you doing Linda?”
“What am I doing? Look at what you have done Maria.”
“I’ve done nothing. The cake is just perfect and the tea is strong enough.”
“Why did you kill my husband?”
“Why did you kill my husband?”
“I didn’t kill George.”
“You were the last one to speak to him. I know you loved him and he loved you back.”
“That is not true.”
Linda leans over to Maria, looks into her eyes and asks, “How is s-u-f-f-e-r-i-n-g pronounced?”
“Do you know what suffering feels like?”
“No you don’t. I want you to feel it now.”
And in goes the grape pulp knife into Maria’s stomach.
Maria’s body falls on the floor with a thud. Everything happens in slow motion.
The knife in Linda’s hand, and then into Maria. Maria, like George, doesn’t scream. She just takes a step behind, grabs on to the platform for support, but instead ends up dropping the fruit basket.
A second or so later, fruits fall to the ground with her!
Linda acts in a completely mechanical manner. Without touching the dead body-strange how after death a person loses his/her identity-Linda cleans up the whole house, keeping back everything where it belonged, and she left for her house. No one had seen her come, no one saw her go. No one will ever know!
On the way back home, Linda stops at a cafe, drinks a coffee and leaves with a fresh new mind. It is not that she is not worried, but she has forgotten everything.
Later that night, for the first time ever, she remembers it all in her dreams. She remembers that how she sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf, that had now started to turn purple.
Linda wakes up with a start and rushes to her daughter’s bedroom and starts crying next to Eva.
Eva wakes up worried.
“Mom! What happened?”
“I killed them both Eva.” Eva thought it to be strange that her mother remembered her name.
“You killed who?”
“Your dad and Maria.” Linda whispers between sobs.
“Nevermind Mom. I know you didn’t want to kill them. Calm down.” She fights back tears.
“They will now put me in jail.”
“No one will do anything to you Mom. Always remember that I am there for you. So what if I was the adopted one? It doesn’t mean that I love you any less and I will let the police take you. Family is family, and is not determined by divorce papers or birth certificates. Families are made in the heart. If you love those people, they are family. If you hate them, they ain’t!”